As Covid sweeps India, experts say cases and deaths are going unreported
April 27, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.
Compression ratio: 22.4%. 2 min read.
India, home to the world's worst ongoing coronavirus outbreak, has reported more than 17.6 million cases since the pandemic began last year.
Health workers and scientists in India have long warned that Covid-19 infections and related deaths are significantly underreported for several reasons, including poor infrastructure, human error, and low testing levels.
"Last year we estimated that only one in about 30 infections were being caught by testing, so the reported cases are a serious underestimate of true infections," he said.
Around this time last year, the country was testing fewer than half a million people per day -- now, "they are doing close to 2 million tests a day," said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist for the World Health Organization (WHO).
There are also different case reporting structures across different cities and states, and testing may be less accessible in rural areas.
"All countries to some extent have faced this problem of accurately classifying Covid-related deaths, but I think in India the problem is quite acute," said Mukherjee.
The majority of people in India die at home or other places, not in a hospital, so doctors usually are not present to assign a cause of death -- a problem that has only deepened in the second wave, with hospitals out of space.
The director of the National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research, a body within the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said in a 2020 report in the Lancet journal that it was difficult to ensure individual states followed the guidelines to capture all confirmed and suspected Covid deaths.
The discrepancies could partially be due to patients dying before they are tested, or having non-Covid factors listed as their cause of death, experts say.
"The real challenge with capturing Covid deaths is because the cause of death is often assigned a comorbidity like kidney disease or heart disease," said Mukherjee.
"If we had more accurate data in terms of cases, infections, as well as deaths, then of course, we'll be much more prepared and also anticipate the healthcare resource needs," she said.